Category Archives: asian-american

Quoted: Simon Tam of The Slants on trademarking his band’s name

The Slants courtesy of TheSlants.com

The Slants courtesy of TheSlants.com

 

According to NPR, Portland-based band,The Slants describes themselves “as one of the first Asian-American rock bands. Their music caters to an Asian-American crowd, they’ve spoken at various Asian-American events, and they’re proud of all of it.” But the group’s four-year effort to trademark its name has been bound up in discussions of what constitutes a racial slur and how derogatory words can be reclaimed. Band member Simon Tam says of The Slants’ battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:

They said because of our ethnicity, people automatically think of the racial slur as opposed to any other definition of the term. In other words, if I was white, this wouldn’t be an issue at all.

The term ‘slant’ means a lot of different things. And [the lawyer from the PTO] even acknowledged that, so [we asked], ‘Why did you choose to apply the racial connotations to this application, but you’ve never done that before in the entire history of this country? Why this case?’ And they said it was because I was Asian-American.

Read more at NPR…

The Ordway Still Doesn’t Get Sexism and Racism (The Problem with Miss Saigon)

 

"Don't Buy Miss Saigon Coalition's 'Our Truth' Tumblr project slide show was projected in front of the Ordway Theater during the protest of the opening night of Miss Saigon.  October 8th, 2013.  Photo by Bao Phi."

Don’t Buy Miss Saigon Coalition’s ‘Our Truth’ Tumblr project slide show was projected in front of the Ordway Theater during the protest of the opening night of Miss Saigon. October 8th, 2013. Photo by Bao Phi.

 

By Guest Contributor Mai Neng Moua

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, here we are again.  Miss Saigon, the musical about a Vietnamese prostitute falling in love with a white soldier during the Vietnam War, then killing MissSaigonLies-logoherself when he ultimately rejects her, was back onstage at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul (MN), until the show closed this past Sunday.  This musical, like any good zombie, just won’t stay dead. Along with it, the racism and sexism inherent in the play have been resurrected.  Really, as the mom of two girls under six and the spouse of a candidate running for office, I don’t have time to get involved – again – in the protest against Miss Saigon.  I protested this back in 1994.  Plenty of good people (Don’t Buy MISS SAIGON Coalition) are already working on it.  More articulate writers (David Mura) have written about it.

However, when one of my African American friends said, “No one has said why it’s offensive and I’m unfamiliar with the show, so I can’t relate,” I decided to follow my advice to my husband Blong, who had originally refused to answer the question of a white man: “What does the Trayvon Martin case have to do with civil rights?” Responses to these questions take time and energy. But as I told Blong, “Plenty of people don’t know, so while it is tiresome, you have to answer the question.”

So, why is Miss Saigon sexist, racist and generally offensive?

The above-referenced Vietnamese prostitute is portrayed as a tragic figure whose only hope is being rescued by the white soldier.  Since the Vietnamese men in the production are portrayed as morally offensive and undesirable, this white guy is the only choice.  The only hero of the musical is a white man.  It’s bad enough that the woman at the center of the musical needs a man to rescue her from her life. The fact that this can only happen at the hands of a white man makes it sexist and racist.  I am Hmong, not Vietnamese, so why do I care?  Unfortunately, people can’t tell the difference.  They’ve mistaken me for Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.  Kim, the Vietnamese prostitute, is me.  I am her.

In Miss Saigon, the only image of Asian women is “prostitute”– not that I am condemning sex workers.  But not all Asian women during the Vietnam War were prostitutes.  When stereotypes are the only images people see, it is necessary to correct the record.  This play is telling me and my young daughters that essentially, we, Asian women, exist to serve and please white men.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  My truth about the Asian women I know who lived during the Vietnam War is far different.  The women I know were resourceful, strong, and fearless.  For example, my mother took care of my two brothers and I after my father died at the tail end of the Vietnam War.  After the Americans pulled out of Laos, the Hmong were targeted for extermination for our role in helping the Americans.  With my mother as the head of our household, we escaped Laos and survived the refugee camps in Thailand.  In America, she navigated the social service system so that we had a roof over our heads, had food in our stomachs, and graduated from high school and college.

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Nice Ansari Impersonation, But Brownface, Though?

Will wonders never cease? Host Miley Cyrus was not the one delivering the race fail on last weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live. A send-up of screen tests for the 50 Shades of 

Grey flick was a highlight of the show. But, in addition to impersonations of Christoph Waltz, Emma Stone and Seth Rogan, it included Nassim Pedrad wearing brownface to portray comedian Aziz Ansari. Both Aerogram and Prachi Gupta at Salon took SNL to task for the choice. Gupta offered, “Brownface is marginalizing, turning a person’s skintone into evidence of his or her ‘otherness’.”

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Quoted: Bao Phi On Protesting Miss Saigon

bao_-_miss_saigon_essay-byannamin1_2_1

Miss Saigon is a play about a Vietnamese prostitute in desperate need of rescue from evil Vietnamese men and the war-torn Third World. It may be a nice place to visit but it sure doesn’t seem like a good place to raise kids. Shut your mouth – there’s a helicopter in it! On stage! The production values! Well there were helicopters in Vietnam, and prostitutes, and white soldiers, and bad Vietnamese men, and mixed race orphans, so the play must be historically accurate and shit. The Vietnamese woman shoots herself in the stomach so she can sing one last song while dying in the arms of the white man. When I was much, much younger, I ask my mom if she wants to go see this play, because it’s about Vietnam. She shakes her head and says, in Vietnamese, “that is not about us.” She says it like she’s explaining to me that Santa Claus doesn’t really exist.

Read more at Hyphen Magazine

Photo by Anna S. Min

Is Geek America Ignoring Miss America?

By Arturo R. García

Lost in the morass of morons who decided to pop up after Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America on Sunday was … well, just about everything else about her.

But as Lakshmi Gandhi pointed out at The Aerogram, Davuluri is a nerd in both the academic and pop-cultural sense: she’s holds a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science and plans to apply to medical school. She is also a self-identified Star Wars and Star Trek fan.

The New York Times‘ Jeff Yang added to this on Sett, both citing Gandhi’s post and posting a shot of Davuluri in full cosplay:

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Half of Asian-American NYC Teens Bullied In School, New Report Finds

By Guest Contributor Sukjong Hong

Sikh-American student Pawan Singh (center) reacts at a Nirbhau Nirvair Workshop. All images courtesy of the Junior Sikh Coalition.

No one promises junior high school will be easy. But for Pawanpreet Singh, a tall and mild-mannered Sikh-American teenager, junior high was overshadowed with the memories of classmates calling him “Osama” and “terrorist” and touching his turban. “I would hear at least one comment per day … I felt like I was less than everyone else, and some other species. It took a toll on my self esteem and academics,” he said. Now, as a high school student advocate, he hears from other students around the city who face the same insults and get no help from the school staff they call upon. At a September 5th press conference in lower Manhattan, Singh recalled a 13-year old student who reported to his teacher that his classmate had called him a “raghead.” According to the student, the teacher replied, “What’s the problem? That’s what you are.”

It has been five years since New York City’s Department of Education established a regulation to address bias-based bullying regulation in schools, Chancellor’s Regulation A-832. (PDF) The regulation was the result of years of advocacy by community and legal groups in the aftermath of three high-profile incidents of harassment against Sikh-American students. On paper, the regulation is comprehensive, with measures for defining, reporting, addressing, and preventing bias-based harassment in schools. But a survey conducted by a coalition of community and legal groups, including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), the Sikh Coalition, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, revealed that bias-based bullying is still a far too common experience for Asian-American students.

Based on the responses of 163 students in after school programs, youth leadership meetings and houses of workshop across the city, the report by AALDEF and the Sikh Coalition, One Step Forward, Half A Step Back, finds that half of the students surveyed had experienced bias-based harassment at school. What’s even more unacceptable, according to Amardeep Singh, Program Director of the Sikh Coalition, is that more than 25 percent of Sikh students experienced physical violence based on their identity.

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“You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese”

“So, I asked my news director … over the holidays if anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in? And he said, ‘You will never be on this anchor desk, because you’re Chinese.’ He said ‘Let’s face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that because of your Asian eyes, I’ve noticed that when you’re on camera, you look disinterested and bored.’

So, what am I supposed to say to my boss? I wanted to cry right then and there. It felt like a dagger in my heart, because all of my life I wanted to be a network anchor.”

– Julie Chen, host of “The Talk,” on her decision to get plastic surgery early in her reporting career

Quoted: On America’s Reaction to Miss America, Nina Davuluri

‘How the f--k does a foreigner win miss America?’ One man tweets after Nina Davuluri’s historic win.

The former Miss New York and Miss America crowning Miss. New York as the new Miss America, via NY Daily News

Keyboards just have a way of bringing out the racist in everyone. Gotta love America.

But a harsh reality is that Miss America, would never be Miss India.  They’re about as messed up when it comes to colorism as other people are.  A former coworker always discussed how her darker Indian family members were discriminated against, and even her own mother warned her to keep her daughter out of the sun so she wouldn’t get dark.  She also used to joke about the Fair & Lovely skin lightening commercials that permeate the airwaves in India.  Coincidentally, Fair & Lovely is a product of Unilever, who also makes Dove.

As Lakshmi Chaudhry, sarcastically but truthfully, wrote on First Post, “That gorgeous chocolate may play as exotic in the West, but in India, we prefer our beauty queens strictly vanilla — preferably accessorised with blue contact lenses.”

-”An Indian-American Was Crowned Miss America & The Racists Reared Their Ugly Racist Heads” by Yesha Calahan via Clutch Magazine